The home woes continued for the Columbus Clippers this week as their roster is light several of its steady contributors in recent seasons.
At 16-19, the Clippers are just a game and a half behind the first place Toledo Mud Hens and a game in back of the second place Indianapolis Indians in the International League’s West Division, despite a shaky start. They have played the second-fewest home games in the IL this season, with just a dozen contests at Huntington Park this season, but that could be a good thing as they have gone 3-9 when playing hosts.
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Countdown to Opening Day – 65
There must be something in a number.
The number 65 has been worn by just four players in the 116-year history of the Cleveland Indians organization and in all four occurrences, it was donned by a pitcher. Twice it came on the backs of young starting pitchers trying to catch on at the Major League level. In the two other and more recent times, it has come on former starting pitchers who were converted to relief work late in their minor league careers.
The road traveled last season by Cleveland Indians right-handed reliever Joseph Colon to the Major Leagues was not the most conventional path to choose.
He originally joined the organization in 2009 when the club selected him in the 12th round of the draft out of Caguas, Puerto Rico. He spent much of his time in the minor leagues working as a starting pitcher, once throwing a nine inning three-hitter while a member of the Double-A Akron RubberDucks on May 26, 2014. In 2015, the team elected to look at him in a different role and moved him into the bullpen with a focus on being more aggressive and having more trust in his stuff. He worked in 21 games for Akron and another 12 with Triple-A Columbus while posting a combined 3-0 record with a 3.14 ERA and 1.23 WHIP for the season.
Following the season, he became a minor league free agent for the first time in his career, but he was re-signed in the offseason by the Indians with a non-roster invite to spring training. But before teams could report to spring camp, Colon and Chicago Cubs minor leaguer P.J. Francescon were suspended 50 games for testing positive a second time for a drug of abuse, becoming the first two players to be banned this year by Major League Baseball.
Detroit hit a pair of tie-breaking home runs before rains delayed and ultimately ended the game after just five innings of play as the Tigers defeated the Cleveland Indians by a 6-3 score on Wednesday night.
While the loss put a damper on the Indians’ pursuits of the top spot in the American League for home field advantage throughout the playoffs, the loss did spare another four innings of work in what again amounted to a bullpen game for the Tribe. Zach McAllister made the start, working two good innings before a pair of relievers ran into trouble with extra base hits.
Cleveland grabbed an early 1-0 lead against Detroit’s Michael Fulmer, one of the leading AL Rookie of the Year candidates. Jason Kipnis drew a one-out walk and advanced on a throwing error from Fulmer before Carlos Santana doubled him home to put the Indians on the board.
The Indians lost an early 2-0 lead as the Tigers capitalized on a bout of wildness from starter Trevor Bauer and a pair of big blasts finished off the afternoon as Detroit defeated Cleveland by a 9-5 final to avoid a sweep at Progressive Field.
Bauer showed some poise and aggressiveness on the mound, but it was his own self-inflicted damage that proved to be too much to overcome. Despite that, the Indians had pulled within one run in defense of their starter before a ninth inning three-run homer drastically altered the outcome of the game.
The Columbus Clippers punched their ticket to the postseason on Wednesday, clinching their third straight International League West Division crown. They still have to wait to see who they may see in the playoffs, as the other two divisions still need some time to be decided.
The Clippers (78-56) extended their winning streak to nine straight games during the week before dropping each game of a two-game set in Toledo with the Mud Hens on Thursday and Friday. They completed a sweep of Toledo in Columbus just last weekend before taking three straight in Indianapolis during the week to clinch their playoff berth. They will wrap up the month with two at home against Louisville before going to Durham for three straight. September will open with three home dates against the Mud Hens before the two teams return to Toledo for two more to close out the regular season.
In other Clippers news and notes from the Ohio state capital:
After a good start to their season, the Columbus Clippers have entered a tough stretch of play on the field. Their lineup has been a revolving door with players heading back and forth to Cleveland, Akron, and the disabled list. They have lost two-fifths of their starting rotation to stretches on the Indians roster and have played without third baseman Giovanny Urshela and outfielder Michael Choice for long stretches.
After hitting ten games above the .500 mark on May 11, the team has slumped, playing at a 9-12 pace in the last 21 games. They have also been shut out five different times since May 16. They have split a pair of series in the last week, taking two of three in a low scoring series last weekend against Durham, outscoring the Bulls 5-3 with two games decided by shutouts. They followed it by dropping two of three against Buffalo, who has now won five of their last six against the Clippers. Columbus entered the weekend with a 10-3 loss on Friday against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to drop to 30-24 on the season, but remains a game and a half in front of the Indianapolis Indians for first place in the International League West Division.
In other Clippers news from the Ohio state capital:
The Cleveland Indians bullpen was a source of three separate news stories on Friday, but the status of manager Terry Francona’s relief corps for the 2016 season remains a cloudy picture.
The club announced that they had traded reliever Kirby Yates to the New York Yankees for cash considerations. Yates, who had been acquired in similar fashion by the Indians in November, had been designated for assignment by the club when the Indians made the signing of first baseman Mike Napoli official earlier in the week.
It was an up and down week throughout the Indians minor league system, but the biggest “up,” may have been the promotion of outfielder Clint Frazier to the Lake County Captains. Frazier made his debut Thursday evening. Frazier was the Cleveland Indians 2013 first round draft pick and the fifth pick overall. Frazier was the 2013 National Gatorade High School Player of the Year.
Before Frazier made his debut Thursday evening, the Tribe’s minor league affiliates had lots of action this past week.
The Triple-A Columbus Clippers began the week with a 1-5 record sitting in last place in the International West Division. Columbus was on the road for all eight games between April 10th and 17th. During this period the Clippers went 4-2 with two games at Indianapolis postponed due to inclement weather. The Clippers started the week losing two out of three games to the Louisville Bats. Columbus went on to win three straight road games versus the Indianapolis Indians and the Toledo Mud Hens. The Clippers have moved out of last place and currently sport a 5-7 record. At 23-years old and standing at 6’3 250 lbs. Jesus Aguilar is certainly an imposing figure. Aguilar imposed his will in his first 10 games of the season being named the Cleveland Indians minor league player of the week during this time. Aguilar hit .417 with four doubles, three home runs and eight runs batted in.